Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Head Conditions

» Concussions
» Heat Illness
» Improper Eyewear
» Migraines


Concussions

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that causes a temporary loss of brain function. For example, if you suffer a concussion, you may have difficulty with balance and coordination, memory, and speech. Concussions are typically short-lived conditions, and most people recover within 7 to 10 days.

Once an athlete has suffered a concussion, he or she is at risk for additional concussions, which can have long-term consequences, so prevention is key.

Cause

A concussion occurs when a force causes the brain to move back and forth forcefully against the inside the skull. This may be caused by either a direct blow to the head, sudden acceleration or deceleration of the head (as in a car crash), or a blow to the body that forces the head to quickly rotate.

Sports such as football, ice hockey, and soccer tend to have higher instances of concussion, although they can occur in any sport or recreational activity.

Symptoms

Symptoms of concussion are not always obvious and may appear either right away or several days after the injury. For this reason, it's important for athletes, coaches, and parents to be watchful for any of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headache that gets worse over time
  • Drowsiness
  • Memory loss
  • Changes in behavior, including irritability or depression
  • Confusion
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Difficulty speaking and communicating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in sleep patterns

Any athlete who is suspected of having a concussion should stop practice or play and be evaluated by someone with expertise in managing concussions. The Primary Care Sports Medicine physicians at Houston Methodist bring our years of experience and ability to perform and interpret computerized neuropsychological testing (ImPACT testing) to managing your concussion and returning you to play in the fastest and safest possible way.

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Heat Illness

It's important that athletes in all sports, particularly outdoor sports, be aware of the possibility of heat-related illnesses during practice or play.

The body normally cools itself through perspiration. During excessively hot and humid weather, perspiration is not enough to maintain a healthy body temperature. If this occurs, the body's temperature rises to dangerously high levels and a heat-related illness can result.

  • Heatstroke is a life-threatening illness in which body temperature may rise above 106° in minutes. Symptoms include dry skin, rapid, strong pulse, and dizziness.
  • Heat exhaustion is a condition that can precede heatstroke. Symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and a fast, weak pulse.
  • Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms that can occur during heavy exercise.
  • Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating.

Drinking fluids, replenishing salt and minerals, limiting time in the heat, and taking frequent breaks during practice can help prevent heat-related illnesses.

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Importance of Proper Eyewear

If you're an athlete-especially if you participate in ball sports-wearing the proper eyewear is extremely important. Seeing that ball sooner will improve your reaction time and may result in a better batting average, improved shooting percentage, and fewer lost golf balls.

  • Make sure to have your vision checked regularly.
  • If you play raquetball or squash, wear quality protective eyewear.
  • If you wear contacts, keep an extra pair handy in case you need to change one during a game or competition.

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Migraines

Migraines are chronic headaches that can cause severe pain for extended periods of time and are often debilitating.

Causes

The exact cause of migraines is not yet understood. They may be caused by changes in the brain stem and its interactions with a major pain pathway known as the trigeminal nerve.

Imbalances in brain chemicals such as serotonin, which contributes to feelings of well-being, may also be involved. Serotonin levels tend to drop during migraine attacks, which may trigger your trigeminal system to release substances called neuropeptides. These neuropeptides travel to your brain's outer covering (meninges), resulting in headache pain.

While we don't yet know the precise cause of migraines, we have identified certain factors that tend to trigger them:

  • Hormonal changes in women, especially fluctuations of estrogen
  • Certain foods, including alcohol, aged cheeses, chocolate, and aspertame
  • Stress
  • Sensory stimuli such as overly bright lights or unusual smells
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Physical exertion
  • Atmospheric changes
  • Certain medications, such as oral contraceptives and vasodilators

Symptoms

Migraines usually begin in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. Common symptoms include:

  • Moderate to severe pain, especially pain on one side of the head
  • Pulsating or throbbing head pain
  • Pain that worsens with physical activity
  • Pain that interferes with regular activities
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Severe sensitivity to light and sound

To schedule an appointment with one of our head specialists, visit the Make an Appointment page or call us.

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